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It’s time to break the taboo around quitting

It’s time to break the taboo around quitting

Nearly half of all millennials plan to leave their current jobs within two years, according to a survey by Deloitte. As new generations with different motivations and ambitions enter the world of work, the age old adage of a job for life is quickly becoming a thing of the past, and thus transitions into and out of our businesses may well become more frequent. Why?

As I spoke about in my last blog, we are living longer, and therefore most can expect to be working well into their 70s or even 80s. So, to remain engaged and happy throughout these additional decades of working, employees will naturally crave variety, and lots of it. And what’s one of the best ways to do this? To explore new job opportunities at new companies more regularly. This all means that quitting may become more and more frequent, and this is something we as employers need to recognise, anticipate and plan for.

It’s easy to think that your team won’t fall prey to this trend. That they are the happiest and most engaged team in the business, they’ll never leave. For most this might be the case, but now is the time to stop being complacent and understand the trend that is happening around you. Whether you like it or not, whilst you are enjoying the festive holiday season, chances are, one or more of your team members will have been scouring LinkedIn looking for job opportunities, or confiding in a family member over Christmas lunch that they’re thinking of finding a new job next year. And the facts speak for themselves - according to a poll we recently conducted, 78% of respondents – (from over 4,000) - said they were planning on finding a new job in 2019.


The reasons for quitting are evolving, too

And the reasons why employees now typically think about leaving may also surprise you. Yes, we’ve all heard the saying – ‘people don’t quit a job, they quit a boss’. And of course, that is true in certain situations – but the prospect of working for longer means that new reasons for quitting are emerging:

  • Feeling disconnected: Remote working is becoming the new normal, with a third of all workers globally working remotely always or very often (compared to a decade ago, the number of remote workers has increased by 115%). A survey of 2,000 people found that two-thirds of remote workers don’t feel engaged, and only 5% said they could see themselves working at the company for their entire career (compared to a third who were office based).
  • Lack of flexibility: The increasing merging of our working lives and personal lives means that employees need more flexibility in order to function – if they don’t get it – you’ll risk losing them. In fact, in a study by Gallup, “51% of employees say they would switch to a job that allows them flextime, and 37% would switch to a job that allows them to work off-site at least part of the time.”
  • Stress and burnout: We now all operate in a 24/7, always-on culture – in this study, HR leaders said that employee burnout is responsible for 20-50% of their annual workforce turnover.
  • No meaning in their jobs: We live in a society in which we are all far more aware of the impact of our actions, and thus increasingly wish to seek out work that has meaning and impact in ways that resonate with us. In fact, 9 out of 10 people would be happy to earn less money if they could find more meaning in their work.
  • Falling out of love: In his fantastic Harvard Business Review article, Gianpiero Petriglieri, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at INSEAD explains how we now must love to work: “Sigmund Freud is often quoted saying, a century ago, that to live a good life we need to be able to love and work. These days, it seems, we must be able to love to work. We no longer want just respect, security, or money from our jobs. We want passion, fulfilment, and surprise too. We want, in a word, romance.” And how do organisations win our hearts? As Petriglieri, puts it: “We fall for organisations that reward our efforts not only with good benefit packages, but also with a better version of our selves.” And, if we don’t get what we need in that respect, then we’re far more likely to want to leave that relationship.

Lastly, I read an interesting Harvard Business Review article recently which highlighted research conducted by CEB, a Washington-based best-practice insight and technology company, who found that work anniversaries are natural times of reflection and can trigger job hunting. The study also found that birthdays or lifetime events can cause people to take stock of their careers and make a judgement call as to whether they are happy with where they’re at. So, as our careers become longer and we celebrate more and more birthdays and work anniversaries, we’ll likely find that other factors outside of the workplace will trigger thoughts of leaving and urges to try something new.


Take action now to avoid losing top talent

The changing needs and expectations of our employees are real, and as employers, we should not carry on blindly and expect our loyal employees to stay with us. There are key changes that you as a business should start thinking about now, to help limit the risk of losing your top people in the future. After all, if you don’t give your people what they need to function well in the evolving world of work, quite frankly, they’ll find another company that does.

To help get you thinking, I wanted to summarise for you a few examples (you can find more information in the latest Hays Journal), of how some companies are starting to anticipate these changes, and are putting new procedures in place in a bid to boost their retention levels:

  • Support personal passions and side hustles: Kelly Knight, HR Director at advertising and creative agency AMV BBDO, takes a flexible approach when employees want to explore other career avenues or personal ambitions: “Our feeling is that if we give people the flexibility, they can better juggle their life with their work and we can hold on to them for longer.”
  • Build flexibility into contracts: Emma Jones, founder of entrepreneur support network Enterprise Nation and author of Working 5 to 9: How to Start a Successful Business in Your Spare Time, states: “…One thing companies can do is build flexibility into contracts. Companies such as web hosting firm GoDaddy have already done this. Employees want to do something that gives them fulfilment alongside their jobs and if employers do not respond to this, they risk losing the talent they’ve already got...”
  • Promote flexibility: Consulting firm PwC, for example, has recently launched a scheme called the ‘Flexible Talent Network’ where new recruits can work the hours they want – whether that means shorter weekly working hours or working for a few months a year. Whilst Global PR company, Golin introduced a similar scheme called ‘Lifetime’ two years ago, whereby employees can work flexible hours, from anywhere, and enjoy unlimited holidays. It was also one of the first in its industry to offer returnships to senior marketing professionals who wanted to return to work after taking time out from their career.
  • Internal mobility: Another trend we’ve seen relatively recently is the rise of internal mobility – specifically amongst tech companies such as Google and Facebook who are offering their employees the opportunity to shift between roles and teams, whilst staying with the business.


Change your attitude towards quitters

However, in reality, there’s often only so much an employer can do to keep hold of its top talent. The decision to leave an organisation is a deeply personal one and often their reasons for leaving are unique to them. So, the fact remains - no matter how many new working practices we put in place, people will still leave our businesses. With that in mind, in my opinion, as employers we need to get much better at handling resignations in a constructive and productive way. But how?

When a member of your team hands their notice in, it can feel like a personal attack, even a rejection. After all, you are their boss, therefore it’s your responsibility to ensure they are happy and fulfilled in their role – the fact that this has happened is a sure sign that you’ve not done your job properly - right? As I’ve outlined above, more often than not, this decision will have been made due to a culmination of factors and will largely be driven by their long-term life and career ambitions. Of course, it’s important to reflect on what you could have done differently as a boss and take the learnings where you can. But, instead of feeling upset or that you’ve failed in some way, you need to focus your efforts on ensuring the exit process goes well, and that you are able to quickly find the best replacement possible.

Secondly, in many businesses, when a person leaves it’s often swept under the carpet in a bid not to attract too much attention. It can also be tempting to disengage completely and give them less of your attention. This is a mistake. Remember, this is a time of transition, particularly for the remaining members of your team, so it’s important you manage the exit process well – put as much effort into saying goodbye to an employee, as you would when welcoming a new employee into your business.

Lastly, I’d like to pick up on the above point around sweeping resignations under the carpet. We need to start taking a far more grown up approach to discussing career paths and ambitions, and make conversations around exploring new opportunities less of a taboo topic. It’s almost as if we’re afraid to have these conversations as it might trigger the employee to start evaluating their options. People will leave our businesses at some stage, that’s pretty much a given, but if we are upfront and open in the way we approach career development conversations from the outset, we will, a. signal that we are invested in their career development, and b. be far better equipped to understand their individual motivations and ambitions. Both of these factors combined will ensure we’re far better equipped to keep hold of our best people for longer, and quite frankly, having these conversations more regularly will also ensure resignations are less of a surprise when they do happen (because they will at some stage).

As the world of work changes, resignations will become more of a reality, there’s no getting around that. It’s up to us as business leaders to better understand the changing reasons why our employees may be tempted to leave us, and start to update and evolve our long-standing traditional working practices so that they are less inclined to do so.

But key to all of this is honesty and transparency – we need to break the taboo around quitting and help our employees feel more comfortable in voicing their ultimate career goals, needs and aspirations with us – the outcomes of these conversations will be fundamental to shaping and future-proofing our talent pipelines. After all, every business is unique, and therefore the reasons why its employees tend to leave that business will be too.

Now is not the time to carry on as you always have, and assume your loyal employees will simply stay with you through thick and thin – now is the time to mix things up and really listen to what your people need from you, otherwise you could be at risk of losing them…and sooner than you might think.